ACCRA (Reuters) - Ghana's cocoa purchases were running 16.5 percent below last year by the end of February due to unfavourable growing weather, industry regulator Cocobod said on Monday.
Official purchases hit 594,000 tonnes by February 28 since the season started on October 12, Cocobod said, compared with around 710,000 tonnes during the same period a year ago.
"The weather is the key factor - the rains came late," deputy chief executive Kwabena Asante Poku told Reuters. "But all hope is not lost. We expect some improvement in output in April towards May. The (July-September) light crop may also pick up, if the weather goes well," he said.
Ghana, the world's second-largest cocoa grower after Ivory Coast, has projected a harvest of around 800,000 tonnes this season, down 5 percent on last year's output. Asante Poku said Cocobod was likely to meet the target.
Total purchases for week 20, which ended February 28, dropped to 2,597 tonnes from 3,949 tonnes the week before, and compared to 1,726 tonnes in the corresponding week of last year.
West African cocoa exporters and growers have said Ghana's purrchases figures may also be affected by lower rates of smuggling from Ivory Coast than last year, and evidence that some beans may even be flowing the other way.